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Topic: How high was the horse?
Replies: 1   Last Post: Oct 8, 1997 5:56 PM

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Jack Rotman

Posts: 22
Registered: 12/6/04
Re: How high was the horse?
Posted: Oct 8, 1997 5:56 PM
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> Jack,
> I'm not going to respond with 1001 succes stories, I'm going to ask some
> questions.
> Could you please explain some of your following sentences a bit more?

Sure -- at least I'll try.

> > > (snip)
> > I generally stay quite on this list, since I am not a numeracy
> > practitioner -- I teach 'developmental' math at a community college.

> Perhaps a stupid question in American eyes, but what do you mean with
> 'developmental' math?

In the American college system, courses at the "pre-college" level in
subjects that are considered basic (reading, writing, math) are often
labelled as "developmental". Universities often use the label
"remedial". In mathematics, "developmental" usually includes
arithmetic, pre-algebra, beginning algebra, and (sometimes) intermediate

> > However, I think this assumption must be challenged: The assumption
> > that many/most of our students failed to learn by certain methods in the
> > past (by itself) implies that we need to use other methods.

> Are you talking about math/numeracy?
> If so, then I think there has been much research, and still there is,
> which shows that students can fail because of the 'traditional' methods
> we used and sometimes still use.
> So, could you explain what you really mean?

All I meant is that the apparent failure of a set of methods in a
student's past does not imply they will fail the next time. In fact,
unless we interview the students, we won't know whether there was any
failure involved at all (very early drop out) OR whether the failure was
due to outside influences (which includes a variety of possibilities).

> > There is no
> > research (at least that I've ever heard of) that supports this
> > assumption; in fact, there is a lot of evidence that it is not true.

> And on what research is the assuption based that it is not true?

I was careful in my word choice here; I meant "evidence" as opposed to
"research" -- "evidence" meaning reports from people teaching
mathematics to adults.

> > How many adult students have you had who thank you for being a great
> > teacher, when you did not do much different from what they had in the
> > past?

> Yes, agree, but why do adults want to stay to the 'old' method? Because
> they were used to it in former school days and they didn't experience
> new methods in school, so they don't know what they miss.
> What about that statement?

It is true that most students (numeracy/developmental or otherwise) are
not able to judge the value of alternative learning methods. However,
most of the students in the U.S. have experienced the other methods we
use in different subjects. (This is probably more true for college
developmental students than for numeracy students.)

> > It is generally the student that has changed, not us:
> Is it you that hasn't changed or the method?

I was not sure what you meant by this. If you meant that we, as a set
of math teachers for adults, behave differently towards the student than
the set of math teachers for children/youth, then I would say that we
have changed even though the basic methods have not.

> > They come
> > to us as adults, with more sophisticated skills and much additional
> > knowledge; because of this change in them, they will not experience
> > instruction in the same way.

> Agree, but:
> Teachers change too because they also grow older and wiser. Their way of
> teaching will change too. But what when the student is older than the
> teacher and got 'older' methods than the teacher in his childhood?

This can be an uncomfortable situation, though I don't think it presents
a general problem. Of course, as you point out above, the student won't
really know that the teacher's methods are 'older'.

> >
> > Besides this, we are now seeing some adult students who experienced a
> > 'reform' curriculum in middle or high school. If you are going to do
> > something "different" for these people, we would go back to the "old"
> > methods.

> I think I'm missing a link here: who want to go back to the old methods?
> The students or you?

I am not saying either one. What I am saying is that we should consider
our methods based on their merits for achieving our objectives, without
reference to whether students have encountered them before or not.

> >
> > This assumption -- that we must do something "different" -- is one of
> > the most dangerous assumptions in adult ed and community colleges.
> > Sometimes it is true, that other methods are needed; other times, the
> > "old" methods would work just fine.

> Okay, but you don't need to do something 'different', you need to do
> something 'functional'. People must see what they are learning and for
> what purpose. How can they use it 'tomorrow'?

This may be one of the larger differences between the adult numeracy
population and the college developmental population: college students
are expected to learn material whether they can see an immediate
application or not. In whatever setting we find ourselves, if our goal
is to enhance "learning to learn", then we should not depend upon
immediate application as a motivation to learn all material. In other
words, sometimes we learn things that we can apply now -- but other
times we learn things that will develop more general skills.

> >
> > (And, before you respond with 1001 success stories, I certainly know
> > that many adult students get great results with "different" methods --
> > just as there are many adult students who get great results with
> > "traditional" methods. My point is that we need to make informed,
> > professional judgements about appropriate methods.)
> >
> > Thanks for reading.
> > Jack

> Thanks for reading too. I hope you will give some response.
> Mieke

Well, I certainly gave a "response" -- I hope it helps!
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Jack Rotman phone (517)483-1079
Lansing Community College Lansing, MI
"Like all art & science, mathematics surrounds us."
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